If you’ve had a full eye exam, and your ophthalmologist or optometrist has diagnosed a vision problem, you have a wide range of options. Three common options are glasses, contact lenses or LASIK. All have pros and cons, all are helpful in different ways, and none guarantees perfect vision at all distances every hour of the day. This mini-guide can help you decide what to do, and you’ll find more information about one option on Horizon Eye Care’s LASIK page.
Addressing A Vision Problem In Children
Patients under 12 almost always start with glasses. They don’t have the dexterity or sense of responsibility needed to take care of contact lenses yet. Glasses may need frequent cleanings or break when an earpiece comes off, but they’re usually comfortable to wear. Adults who sit in front of a computer for long periods may prefer them; people who stare at a screen blink less often, which dries out their eyes and can make contacts irritating.
Options Expand For Teens And Young Adults
A patient older than 12 with a vision problem may switch to contact lenses, especially if he or she plays sports or leads an active life. Even if they primarily wear contacts, they should keep a pair of glasses in reserve. Almost anyone can wear gas-permeable lenses or soft lenses, but both accumulate harmful bacteria. So, gas-perms need to be cleaned carefully each day, and soft lenses must be discarded regularly – perhaps daily, as many doctors now recommend. Contact lens research continues to make both types more comfortable for longer periods of time.
What About LASIK?
At about 18, prescriptions no longer change rapidly, and all three options come into play. The term LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis; this procedure permanently changes the shape of the cornea, the clear covering on the front of your eye.
LASIK has become much more sophisticated since its early days 30 years ago. Though it once addressed only nearsightedness and astigmatism, Horizon doctors now also do a topographic analysis to fix minute spherical aberrations and provide further improvements in vision.
Not everyone’s a candidate: LASIK works for patients who fall within certain parameters of nearsightedness and astigmatism, though that range is wider now than ever, and whose corneas are thick enough to stand restructuring. The body’s response to any surgery varies patient to patient; though the procedure has a 98 percent success rate, people may fall short of their vision targets, experience dry eyes or see glare or halos around lights at night.
Options Over 50
Most patients over 50 have the beginnings of cataracts, which make LASIK less useful; there’s little point in reshaping a cornea, if the benefits won’t last a long time. Older patients who want to live without glasses or contacts may opt instead for Clear Lens Exchange (sometimes called “CLE” or “RLE” – for Refractive Lens Exchange), where the doctor replaces your natural lens with an artificial lens to correct refractive error and provide sharper focus. The downside? Insurance won’t cover it but will pay for cataract surgery, when it’s finally needed.
There’s A Solution That’s Right For You
With a vision problem, often a combination of tools works best. Some people prefer to wear contacts outside the home and glasses inside. Some want bifocal glasses or contacts to help with close-up and distance vision simultaneously. (There’s currently no such thing as bifocal LASIK surgery.) Some LASIK patients come out needing no further assistance; some still use magnifiers to read small print.
Every patient has specific visual expectations, responds in a unique way to treatment and heals differently from other patients. If you have a vision problem, together, you and your doctor can find what works best for you.